Hanna, Louisiana is a 50-mile drive from Kloeckner Shreveport. It’s a drive Benny Miller knows well.
Since 1969, Benny has been commuting to the same building. Despite the hour-long trip and the many opportunities he’s had to hit the snooze button on his very early morning alarm clock, Benny has never been late to work.
Over the years he has held many positions in the plant, from moving coil rolls to becoming one of the best burn table operators Louisiana has ever seen. This year, on his 73rd birthday, Benny will retire from Kloeckner Metals.
52 Years in the Metals Industry
52 years ago, on a Tuesday, Benny started his career in the metals industry. $1.25 an hour was the going rate back then. He worked tirelessly, clocking 70 hours that first week.
He caught on quickly. Determined to always put his best effort forward whether he was asked to organize coil rolls by size, run saws, maneuver lifts, trace blueprints, or operate the burn table. He’s worked in every bay, with an array of material.
Benny has been operating the burn table for the last 20 years, exacting precise shapes from large sheet metal. This has been his favorite job throughout his career. He was handpicked to train on the table when it was first purchased. As he describes it, “Once I got the basics, well, I just went from there, you know.”
Benny’s Advice for Burning Operators
Over the years, Benny has learned the importance of paying close attention at all times. In general, being inside a metals facility requires a heightened awareness of what’s going on in every direction. Cranes move overhead, sparks are flying, forklifts carry heavy ton material from here to there. Some machines are stationary, others move about.
So, when asked what advice he might have for other burn operators, Benny keeps it simple.
“Pay attention to what you’re doing.”
There’s no going back if you get the wrong material and start to cut it. There’s no uncut button.
To minimize mistakes, Benny encourages up-and-coming burn operators to, “Make sure you get the right material… You got to double check when you get them tickets and look at ‘em more than once instead of just going and getting something and cutting it… Double check when you come to the table with your materials.”
After all these years of getting up early, and working hard day in and day out, the first thing Benny is going to do when he retires is try to sleep in. It goes without saying, he’s earned at least that much!
Sara Montijo is a writer for Kloeckner Metals. She graduated with honors from NYU and has previously facilitated multimedia programming and worked alongside renowned chefs. Her friends call her a time warp.